When I told people that I was currently reading a book on the start of Zappos.com, the response was always the same: “Why?” I’m not exactly sure what interested me in this book, but I found it in the thrift store, and I was eager to read it. Aside from theology, my favorite topic to read is the history and evolution of the computer industry. Reading a book on how an online shoe store became a powerhouse retailer seemed to be perfect.
This book is part autobiography of Tony Hsieh and part how-to-be-a-leader book (a genre that I usually try to avoid). I enjoyed reading the start of young Tony with his entrepreneurial endeavors and accidental encounters that led him to Nick Swinmurn, the owner of a business called shoesite.com, which then transformed into what we now know as Zappos.com. Tony’s dedication to Zappos (even when business logic told him it is a losing proposition) was inspiring. It made me want to buy shoes at Zappos.
Before you readers get too inspired and leave this review to buy the new Nike Frees, I want to give what annoyed me most about this book: Tony Hsieh himself. He is an arrogant, condescending, and strange man. He is smarter and richer than you, and he makes sure you know this. He loves to refer to his friends as his “tribe” (so annoying), and tells of the epiphany he has in a rave. (Tony makes it clear that he liked raves before they were popular). Somehow, that trippy experience inspired him to provide excellent customer service.
Hsieh pontificates how amazing the Zappos culture is, and, frankly, I don’t care. While I appreciate good customer service, let’s keep in mind that they are selling shoes, not running the United Nations.